Home / News / World /  Spy balloon row: China refused to take its call , says Pentagon

China rebuffed the Pentagon when it tried to arrange a phone call between Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and China’s defense minister after the US shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon, a Defense Department spokesman said.

The department asked for the call between Austin and Defense Minister Wei Fenghe right after the balloon was shot down on Feb 4. “Unfortunately the PRC has declined our request," Brigadier General Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement, referring to China by its formal name, the People’s Republic of China.

ALSO READ: China expresses ‘strong dissatisfaction’ over US shooting down spy balloon

“We believe in the importance of maintaining open lines of communication between the United States and the PRC in order to responsibly manage the relationship," Ryder said. “Lines between our militaries are particularly important in moments like this."

The US says the balloon was a surveillance device and called its voyage across the country a violation of US territory. Officials have said they felt no obligation to tell China before a US fighter jet shot down the balloon off the coast of South Carolina. China said the balloon was a weather monitoring device that blew off course, and that the US had no right to destroy it.

The balloon episode has sent the US-China relationship spiraling to a new low. President Joe Biden met President Xi Jinping in November with a promise to try to renew ties, and one goal was to resume military-to-military contacts that were suspended after then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year.

China’s embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.

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